Background: SoundCloud is an audio streaming site that lets people discover music and other content from a diverse community of creators. While it has a lot of similarities with other streaming sites such as Spotify and Pandora, SoundCloud has always been hailed as a sanctuary for aspiring artists who want a platform to showcase their talent. 
Challenge: As someone who listens to a lot of music, I have to admit that SoundCloud is a service I've never really used for music discovery and streaming; but with 175 million monthly listeners, they do have a proven user base. I set out to conduct a UX Case Study to determine what is driving people to the service, and what if anything can be done to enhance the experience for new and prospective users. 
Approach: I worked with other members of my UX team to conduct user research with the ultimate goal of discovering several ways to improve the user experience of the SoundCloud website. With a solid understanding of the pain points that users experienced with the service, I set out to make some subtle improvements that would lead to a more rewarding experience when navigating throughout the site. My objective was to create mid-fidelity wireframes that could then be validated through user testing. 
Role: UX Research & Design, UI Design

We began our research by interviewing six men and women aged 25-35 years old. Our interviews focused on getting to know our users' habits relating to their enjoyment and interaction with music. We wanted to know what kinds of sites or services they already used and why they chose one over another. It was important for us to determine what kept people coming back to their favorite service. We also tried to get an idea of how people learned about new music whether it be through their service of choice, social media, or word of mouth.
Next, we asked our users specific questions regarding SoundCloud. Luckily, the interviewees had varying levels of familiarity with SoundCloud so we were able to capture a wide range of insights with a relatively small sample size. Once we determined users' familiarity level with SoundCloud, we were then able to dive deeper into what people liked about it as a service as well as some of their main frustrations. 
Competitive Analysis
We performed a competitive analysis of other sites and services that are comparable to SoundCloud including Spotify, Pandora, Google Play Music, LastFM, YouTube and Bandcamp. Spotify, Pandora & GPM are all popular music services that have a wide range of artists. However, artists are unable to manage their own pages for these services even if they can submit their work for consideration. While YouTube is similar to SoundCloud in that it allows for individual artists to easily upload and share their content, the big difference is that it's generally more focused on video versus audio. It seemed clear that while offering streaming audio is the common denominator, SoundCloud provides more tools for artists who want to control their own brand. 
Heuristic Evaluation
We also performed an abbreviated Heuristic Evaluation to identify any obvious usability issues that might support some of the insights we identified during our user research phase. A lot of our observations were centered around the way music streams function in SoundCloud:
- There is no way to filter the auto-playlist that is generated once you begin listening to a song
- There is no way to disable the auto-play feature
- Listeners are unable to see the songs they most recently listened to
- The music player is so discrete that it's not easily noticeable among other elements
- There is no clear delineation between standard users and artists
We then created several primary personas to ensure that we had captured the key user groups accurately. With additional resources, we would have created a secondary persona to capture the contributors user group who undoubtedly have a large impact on the SoundCloud ecosystem as well. 
Persona 1
Our first persona reflects a heavy consumer of music who is actively involved in the local scene. She enjoys being on the cutting edge when hearing about new music and artists, so she wants personalized recommendations to make her discovery process more fluid.​​​​​​​
Anne Eastman, Stream Queen
Persona 2
Our second persona represents an avid music listener with a more traditional approach to the way he collects and discovers music. He uses Spotify to discover new music as well as recommendations from friends with similar tastes. His frustrations revolve around not always being able to easily download and save music when he finds something he likes on a given service. ​​​​​​​
Once we were able to identify users' frustrations with the SoundCloud platform, we were then tasked with creating wireframes to solve some of those usability problems. As with any design, my first step was to begin sketching out some ideas of what some redesigned site elements and interactions might look like.
After sketching some ideas and getting feedback from other designers, I created mid-fidelity wireframes using Adobe Illustrator:
Song Queue
Music Genre
My next steps would have been to create prototypes and perform user testing to verify that the redesigned site pages improved the user experience. I also would have loved to dive deeper into the information architecture of the site to determine if there were a more natural way to arrange the vast amount of content found on SoundCloud.
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